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Why does an actress really go for a complete hair cut for a role instead of using CGI? Examples:

  • Delphine Chanéac gone bald for the role in Splice (2009)

  • Karen Gillan gone bald for the role in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

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    Cheaper for a start, you don't need to pay someone to CGI the actor's hairstyle for every shot they're in – EdChum - Reinstate Monica Mar 18 '15 at 10:24
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    Commitment to the part? – wbogacz Mar 18 '15 at 10:29
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    And hair grows back, esp. a young woman's. – Walt Mar 18 '15 at 10:33
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    Convincing hair (and water) are still the biggest challenges in CGI (also: uncanny valley effect). – his Mar 18 '15 at 10:39
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    a bald cap would be way more practical than CGI. – Darrick Herwehe Mar 18 '15 at 13:12
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Many actresses are incredibly committed to their role, and will do whatever it takes to hone their craft and make their performance better and more genuine.

Not only does it show more commitment, but it will likely help them to get into character as well.

A lot of films with actresses getting their hair cut off in-film have it done when they're going through a transformation (see Natalie Portman in V For Vendetta and Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables), and it helps them not to only physically show it but also mentally prepare for it.

These types of roles also are generally very good characters to play for various reasons (like the transformation) and from the 2 examples I provided above they both won awards for their roles.

Rather than them getting the award for cutting their hair off, they are most likely getting their awards for portraying an interesting character who happens to have their hair cut off.

I suppose some of them could use CGI for these roles (or even wear a bald cap), but answer this question: how many male actors would hesitate to shave their head for a great role? Probably very few. So why would actresses be any different?

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You might be surprised at how much it costs to do CGI, compositing, and animation. Cutting off the hair costs only a few hundred dollars (SAG rules require payment to the actress).

Greenscreen cleanup cost "hundreds of thousands of dollars" per minute of finished film (according to Ronald D. Moore's commentary on the DVD) during the making of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica (2004). While that was ten years ago, doing CGI removal of hair is at least an order of magnitude harder than chroma key alone which requires substantial manual cleanup:

  • The actresses head moves and her hair has complex moves which would have to be keyed somehow, tracked, and then rotoscoped away.
  • Unless the camera is locked down, the background would have to be tracked, which might vary from frame to frame if her hair covers her clothes.
  • This position of her virtual scalp is difficult to key automatically and probably would have to be keyed manually.
  • The boundary of where the hair ends and the virtual scalp starts would be very tricky to produce convincingly and reliably especially as the relative orientation varies for camera-to-head.
  • Lighting effects would have to be added to the scalp.

I would expect all of this would still run hundreds of thousands of dollars per minute.

If you were the producer of a feature length movie, which would you choose?:

  • $1 million plus just for virtual hair removal which might not be completely convincing and might not look good?, or
  • $150 for a head shave?
  • I think you're underestimating the amount that would have to be paid to an actress... SAG requires a minimum amount but it's just a minimum. A big name actress will likely get much more in a consideration for the shaved head. – Catija Mar 19 '15 at 22:27
  • @Catija: Well, both numbers could well be within an order of magnitude of their true value, but even if the actress gets $20k, the relationship still holds. – wallyk Mar 19 '15 at 23:29
  • I don't disagree that it's cheaper, your answer doesn't allow for the $150 to be higher but does allow for the digital removal to be higher... plus, they'd never shoot with the actress's hair down... it'd be under a key-color bald cap so that it's easy to replace... only an idiot would shoot her with hair and then say, Oh, ha ha... let's make her bald. – Catija Mar 19 '15 at 23:31
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I would say commitment as in the previous answer.

I'm also thinking about the uncanny valley. Even in CGI, reproducing a bald head might be a real emotion breaker as we could "feel" this is not real, cutting out all the emotion of the movie.

Nevertheless, I think the main reason is that it costs way less to the producer and help them allow budget on boobs surgery. :)

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